5 Events That Could Have Changed The Outcome Of The 1912 RMS Titanic Tragedy
So many people are aware of the Titanic tragedy; the ill-fated ship set sail on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, destined for New York but she would never make it. She foundered after hitting an iceberg; taking around twelve hundred souls with her as she sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in April 1912.
However, if there had been better provisions for such potential tragedies, there is a chance the Titanic's passengers could have been saved. This list looks at the events that may have averted the Titanic disaster.
5 More lifeboats
Part of the Titanic legacy is that there were not nearly enough lifeboats for the amount of passengers onboard, and this was true; however, the Titanic carried more lifeboats than the regulations demanded. A ship of Titanic's size was only required to carry sixteen lifeboats with capacity for nine hundred and ninety people, rather than the eleven hundred and seventy-eight she actually had provision for.
Nevertheless, this was unfortunately only a third of Titanic's total capacity and ultimately condemned many hundreds of people to certain death.
Titanic actually had the capacity for sixty-four wooden lifeboats which would have provided a place in the boats for every person on board and room to spare! However, it was decided by the White Star line (Titanic's owners) that any more than sixteen lifeboats would make the deck look 'cluttered' and would not be well received by their first-class passengers.
Tragically, this decision led to around fifteen hundred people losing their lives that night.
4 Wireless Operators Were Preoccupied
The wireless operators aboard Titanic were kept incredibly busy sending messages on behalf of their wealthy passengers, which was a lucrative sideline for any passenger-carrying vessel.
The wireless operators received ice warnings from other ships in the area but due to the volume of passenger messages that they were under pressure to deliver, the ice warnings were possibly seen as less of a priority.
Indeed, the company would most likely be in favour of their wealthy passengers' messages being delivered as a priority on the maiden voyage of their newest liner, rather than filling the airwaves with company messages.
It could be argued and hypothesised that if the operators had been given fewer passenger messages to deliver they may well have been better placed to ensure all ice warnings reached the bridge in a timely fashion; something that sadly didn't happen.
3 SS Californian Did Not Have 24 Hour Wireless Monitoring
The night the Titanic sank, the much smaller passenger vessel the SS Californian was in the same area on the way to Boston without any passengers on board.
Due to heavy pack-ice floating in large fields, the Californian's Captain, Stanley Lord ordered the ship to stop in a heavy ice field to prevent any risk of damage or worse to his ship and crew.
Shortly before Titanic hit the iceberg, the Californian's only wireless operator Cyril Evans, had attempted to transmit to the Titanic that they were stopped overnight on account of ice but had received a sharp rebuke from one of the Titanic's two operators his response was 'Shut Up; I'm working Cape Race!'
This was likely due to the personal messages already mentioned that were being transmitted to the wireless station at Cape Race, Newfoundland, some eight hundred miles away.
Perhaps disappointed with the other operator's attitude, a few minutes later Evans switched off his wireless set (as was standard practice on ships with part-time wireless operation) and went to bed. Sadly, by the time he next turned on his wireless, the Titanic was at the bottom of the ocean, and many hundreds of people had perished in the icy depths of the Atlantic.
There has been much discussion about whether the Titanic's lookouts could have seen the iceberg sooner if they had been given binoculars; even the official inquiry questioned whether the lookouts should have had a pair in the crow's nest on that fateful night.
At the British inquiry into the disaster, the question was put to Charles Bartlett, Marine Superintendent of the White Star Line. Below is the transcript of that questioning.
21715. (Mr. Scanlan.) Why have you a bag or a box in the crow's nest to hold binoculars if you do not think they are required?
That was not always for binoculars; that was for anything the men used in the look-out.
21716. It was not always for binoculars, but it was for anything a man might use on the look-out, you say?
21717. What do you mean by that?
His muffler, his clothes, and his oilskin
coat and that sort of thing. There is generally a canvas bag put up there.
Therefore, evidence suggests that the question of the binoculars should be dismissed as a fallacy, and the idea dropped that binoculars would have helped the lookouts spot the iceberg.
However, further in the inquiry, it became apparent that it certainly wasn't official policy for lookouts to not use binoculars, but rather left up to the officer in charge.
Second Officer Lightoller stated that "It is a matter of opinion for the officer on watch. Some officers may prefer the man to have glasses and another may not; it is not the general opinion."
So it becomes a matter of the officer's preference rather than any particular technical reason that would prevent the lookouts being provided with binoculars. While the reasons against are no doubt sensible; such as the inability to scan a wide and large field of view, for instance, the point of view must be considered that had they been provided, the lookouts may just have seen the fatal iceberg a few minutes sooner and perhaps prevented the tragedy.
1 Reversing Titanic's Engines
Speculation has long surrounded whether Murdoch, the Officer of the watch should or shouldn't have tried to navigate around the iceberg that night.
Some believe the ship would have stood more chance of survival if it had been left at 'full ahead' rather than Murdoch ordering the engines put into reverse (or 'full astern') to slow the ship down, therefore slowing the rate at which the ship was able to turn.
The idea that the ship would have turned faster if left at full speed is potentially sound because a fast-moving vehicle will turn more quickly than one moving slowly.
After all, we've all been behind a slow driver who seems to take an age to turn a corner due to their low speed, meaning that at a higher speed the Titanic may have missed the iceberg altogether and avoided the catastrophic damage that led to her total loss a mere two hours and forty minutes later.
It has also been suggested that the ship would have been better off hitting the iceberg head-on, as that would have meant less likelihood of all watertight compartments ultimately flooding.
However, this argument is potentially flawed as the energy that would have been generated by the ship hitting the iceberg head-on would have been enormous and would have led to a potential dead-stop by the ship, causing more immediate injuries through people being thrown out of beds, slammed against bulkheads, as well as each other.
The 'crumpling' and the subsequent shock wave that would have been caused by a head-on collision could also have led to the ship being damaged along her full length in such a way that the hull would have succumbed in minutes rather than almost three hours.
This would have meant that the seven hundred or so mainly women and children who survived the Titanic's sinking would most likely also have been killed on that fateful night, adding to the devastating death toll and making the loss of life total.
This is of course conjecture as it cannot be proved what would have happened for sure; however it is an interesting angle of investigation and one that has led to much discussion, both in the aftermath of the disaster and in more recent years.